The return of cooler temperatures increases your dependency on home heating equipment in the fall. If your furnace isn’t operating correctly, it might become a fire hazard and endanger your family’s safety.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating systems are a major source of home fires, leading to almost 50,000 blazes, 500 civilian deaths and more than $1 billion in significant property damage every year. Space heaters and fireplaces start the majority of fires involving heating equipment, but central heaters, such as furnaces, are liable for just about 12% of these blazes. Find out more about the leading causes of furnace fires and how to avoid them.
Causes of Furnace Fires
Aging furnaces are more exposed to safety hazards because they may be designed differently and slide into disrepair through the years. Still, whether your furnace is more than a decade old or brand new, you should be familiar with these causes of furnace fires.
A furnace motor can overheat in various ways. Here are the most common risks:
- A clogged filter can impede airflow and force the motor to work more. Sooner or later, the motor might overheat, raising the risk of fire.
- Dirt can accumulate around and insulate the motor, forcing it to absorb heat, which can lead to a fire.
- Exposed or deteriorated wiring can cause the voltage to elevate, increasing the risk of an electrical fire.
- Overly tight or damaged motor bearings can heat up as the furnace is on. Without adequate lubrication, the bearings could eventually light on fire.
Clogged Furnace Flue
Yard waste, animal nests and other materials can obstruct the furnace flue, restricting oxygen. This results in soot accumulation and bad ventilation, lowering efficiency and increasing the risk of flame rollout. Flame rollout is when fire gets out of the heat exchanger and burns the parts inside your furnace. If this problem persists, your heating equipment could be severely damaged, and the fire may even spread to areas outside the furnace.
Clogged Heat Exchanger
The heat exchanger is a restricted combustion chamber where the heat produced by your furnace transfers to the air circulating within your home. A heat exchanger clogged up with soot or corrosion has the same effect as a blocked furnace flue—reduced performance and a higher risk of flame rollout.
Cracked Heat Exchanger
Numerous problems can take place if corrosion cracks the heat exchanger. First, it lowers suction in this chamber, resulting in less airflow and increased flame rollout. Second, it emits fumes, such as carbon monoxide, into your home. Inhaling CO gas can be fatal, so never ignore your carbon monoxide alarms. CO gas can also return to the source of the leak and ignite if a flame is found.
Improper Gas Pressure
Furnaces need a precise mixture of natural gas and air to generate safe and efficient combustion. Too little pressure is often the result of clogged burner orifices. This problem makes the burner flames more likely to roll out. It also produces unwanted condensation within the heat exchanger, accelerating the rate of corrosion.
On the other hand, high gas pressure can create excessive heat inside the furnace, which can cause the soot inside the heat exchanger to combust. Such fires can easily spread to other areas.
How to Prevent Furnace Fires
Based on the different ways a furnace can light on fire, here are the steps you can take to prevent furnace fires:
- Replace the air filter regularly: Check the filter monthly and change it when it looks dirty or every three months, whichever comes first.
- Keep an eye on the furnace flue: Examine the exterior vent for obstructions and take care of any you find.
- Don’t keep combustible items around the furnace: Things including cardboard boxes, paper, clothing and other combustibles should be kept more than 3 feet away from the furnace and any other heating equipment.
- Put in a flame rollout switch: This safety component detects if a fire or hot exhaust gases are inside your furnace’s burner compartment. If the rollout switch triggers, have your furnace inspected right away to diagnose and repair the problem before it produces a furnace fire.
- Schedule annual furnace maintenance: It isn’t always easy to notice if your furnace is operating unsafely. Whether you notice warning signs or not, remember furnace maintenance every fall.
Schedule Furnace Services Today
Is it time for your yearly tune-up? Do you need help resolving a problem with your furnace? Whatever the case, Atmostemp Service Experts is here for you. Our HVAC pros can inspect, clean and test the system to guarantee safe operation. If anything looks out of place, we’ll recommend a repair or a modification, offering you peace of mind that your furnace is unlikely to catch fire. For more details or to schedule furnace maintenance, please contact your local Atmostemp Service Experts office